December 2, 2015
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Tongue Problems (cont.)

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Can tongue problems be prevented?

Some tongue problems are preventable by practicing good oral hygiene and eating a healthy, nutritious diet while some tongue conditions cannot be prevented at all but can be managed with treatment. Other tongue problems are the byproduct of an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. Once addressed, the tongue problem generally resolves.

For oral cancer, exercising moderation or quitting the habit of smoking and drinking alcohol will decrease the risk. A vaccine for HPV is being studied and it may help in guarding against oral cancers as well. Oral cancer screenings should always take place during routine dental visits. Screenings can also take place with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician.

What is the prognosis for tongue problems?

Fortunately, most tongue problems are benign and treatable. Therefore, the prognosis is generally very good.

In regards to growths on the tongue, the main concern is oral cancer. Early detection and treatment usually provides the best chance for recovery and survival. The prognosis for oral cancer is dependent upon the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread to blood vessels. Frequent follow-up and close monitoring are crucial parts of care. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis for oral cancer is generally poor. In the U.S., approximately half of individuals newly diagnosed with oral cancer do not survive after more than five years. Despite advances in treatment with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, the poor prognosis is due to the cancer being discovered at a later stage in its development.

When treating tongue cancer with surgery, the patient may experience the complication of numbness of the tongue. The numbness may or may not resolve. Radiation and chemotherapy treatment may also cause decreased saliva flow and changes in taste that may take time to improve or not improve at all.


Majorana, Alessandra, et al. "Oral mucosal lesions in children from 0 to 12 years old: ten years' experience." Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod (2010).

Reamy, Brian, et al. "Common Tongue Conditions in Primary Care." American Family Physician (2010): 627-634.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/21/2014


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